Beeching cuts (also Beeching Axe) were a reduction of route
network and restructuring of the railways in Great Britain, according
to a plan outlined in two reports, The Reshaping of British Railways
(1963) and The Development of the Major Railway Trunk Routes (1965),
written by Dr
Richard Beeching and published by the British Railways
The first report identified 2,363 stations and 5,000 miles
(8,000 km) of railway line for closure, 55% of stations and 30%
of route miles, with an objective of stemming the large losses being
incurred during a period of increasing competition from road transport
and reducing the rail subsidies necessary to keep the network running;
the second identified a small number of major routes for significant
investment. The 1963 report also recommended some less well publicised
changes, including a switch to containerisation for rail freight.
Protests resulted in the saving of some stations and lines, but the
majority were closed as planned, and Beeching's name remains
associated with the mass closure of railways and the loss of many
local services in the period that followed. A few of these routes have
since reopened, some short sections have been preserved as Heritage
Railways, while others have been incorporated into the National Cycle
Network or used for road schemes; others now are lost to construction,
simply reverted to farm land, or remain derelict.
2 The Beeching reports
2.1 The Reshaping of British Railways (The Beeching report)
2.1.1 The problem
2.1.2 The recommendations
2.2 The Development of the Major Railway Trunk Routes (Beeching II)
3 The closures
4 Critical analysis
4.1 Disposals of land and structures
4.2 Acceptance of rail subsidies
4.3 Replacement buses and proposed alternatives
5 The people and the politics
6.2 South East
6.3 South West
6.4 East Midlands
6.5 West Midlands
6.6 North West
6.7 South Wales
6.9 Heritage Railways
6.10 Current proposals
7 In popular culture
8 Closures by year
9 See also
13 External links
See also: History of rail transport in Great Britain
Banchory railway station
Banchory railway station on the Deeside Railway, Scotland, in 1961.
The station closed in 1966.
After growing rapidly in the 19th century during the Railway Mania,
the British railway system reached its height in the years immediately
before the First World War, with a network of 23,440 miles
(37,720 km). After the
First World War
First World War the railways faced
increasing competition from a growing road transport network, which
led to the closure of some 1,300 miles (2,100 km) of passenger
railway between 1923 and 1939. These closures included the Charnwood
Forest Railway, previously closed to passengers in 1931; the Harborne
Line in Birmingham, closed to passengers in 1934. Some of these
lines had never been profitable and were not subject to loss of
traffic[clarification needed] in that period. The railways were busy
during World War II, but at the end of the war they were in a poor
state of repair, and were soon nationalised as British Railways.
The Branch Lines Committee of the
British Transport Commission (BTC)
was formed in 1949 with a brief to close the least-used branch lines;
3,318 miles (5,340 km) of railway were closed between 1948 and
1962. the most significant of these was the Midland and Great
Northern Joint Railway, closed in 1959. This period saw the beginning
of a closures protest movement led by the Railway Development
Association, whose most famous member was the poet John Betjeman.
They went on to be a significant force resisting the Beeching
Economic recovery and the end of petrol rationing led to rapid growth
in car ownership and use. Vehicle mileage grew at a sustained annual
rate of 10% between 1948 and 1964. In contrast, railway traffic
remained steady during the 1950s but the economics steadily
deteriorated, with labour costs rising faster than income and
fares and freight charges repeatedly frozen by the government to try
to control inflation. By 1955 income no longer covered operating
costs, and things got steadily worse.
1955 Modernisation Plan
1955 Modernisation Plan promised expenditure of over £1,240
million; steam locomotives would be replaced with diesel and electric
locomotives, traffic levels would increase, and the system was
predicted to be back in profit by 1962. Instead losses mounted,
from £68 million in 1960 to £87 million in 1961, and £104 million
in 1962 (£2.04 billion in 2016 terms). The BTC could no longer
pay the interest on its loans. The government lost patience and looked
for radical solutions.
By 1961 losses were running at £300,000 a day; since
nationalisation in 1948, 3,000 miles (4,800 km) of line had been
closed, railway staff numbers had fallen 26% from 648,000 to
474,000[note 1] and the number of railway wagons had fallen 29% from
1,200,000 to 848,000.[note 2]
The Beeching reports
The Reshaping of British Railways (The Beeching report)
A copy of The Reshaping of British Railways report, displayed beside
the National Union of Railwaymen's response pamphlet
The report The Reshaping of British Railways (or Beeching I
report) was published on 27 March 1963.
The report starts by quoting the brief provided by the Prime Minister,
Harold Macmillan, from 1960: "First, the industry must be of a size
and pattern suited to modern conditions and prospects. In particular,
the railway system must be modelled to meet current needs, and the
modernisation plan must be adapted to this new shape"[note 3] and with
the premise that the railways should be run as a profitable
Beeching first studied traffic flows on all lines to identify "the
good, the bad, and the indifferent".[note 5] His analysis showed that
the least-used 1,762 stations had annual passenger receipts of less
than £2,500 each (£52.8 thousand as of 2018), that over half
of the 4,300 stations open to passengers in 1960 had receipts of less
than £10,000,[note 6] that the least-used 50% of stations contributed
only 2% of passenger revenue,[note 7] and that one third of route
miles carried just 1% of passengers.[note 8]
By way of example, he noted that the line from Thetford to Swaffham
carried five trains each weekday in each direction, carrying an
average of nine passengers with only 10% of the costs of operating the
line covered by fares; another example was the
Gleneagles-Crieff-Comrie line which had ten trains a day and five
passengers on average earning only 25% of costs. Finally there was the
service from Hull to York via Beverley (using part of the Yorkshire
Coast Line, which was not closed, and the York to Beverley Line, which
was). The line covered 80% of its operating costs but he calculated
that it could be closed because there was an alternative, but less
direct, route.[note 9]
Out of 18,000 miles (29,000 km) of railway, Beeching recommended
that 6,000 miles (9,700 km)—mostly rural and industrial
lines—should be closed entirely, and that some of the remaining
lines should be kept open only for freight. A total of 2,363 stations
were to close, including 435 already under threat, both on lines that
were to close and on lines that were to remain open.[note 10]
He recommended that freight services should mainly be for minerals and
coal, and that the freight system made use of new containerised
handling systems rather than less efficient and slower wagon-load
The Development of the Major Railway Trunk Routes (Beeching II)
Map of Great Britain, showing "major lines" identified by Beeching II
On 16 February 1965, Beeching announced the second stage of his
reorganisation of the railways. In his report, The Development of the
Major Railway Trunk Routes, he set out his conclusion that of the
7,500 miles (12,100 km) of trunk railway only 3,000 miles
(4,800 km) "should be selected for future development" and
This policy would result in traffic being routed along nine lines.
Traffic to Coventry, Birmingham, Manchester,
Liverpool and Scotland
would be routed through the
West Coast Main Line
West Coast Main Line to Carlisle and
Glasgow; traffic to the north-east would be concentrated through the
East Coast Main Line, which was to be closed north of Newcastle; and
Wales and the
West Country would go on the Great Western
Main Line to
Swansea and Plymouth.
Underpinning Beeching's proposals was his belief that there was too
much duplication in the railway network: "The real choice is between
an excessive and increasingly un-economic system, with a corresponding
tendency for the railways as a whole to fall into disrepute and decay,
or the selective development and intensive utilisation of a more
limited trunk route system".[note 12] Of the 7,500 miles
(12,100 km) of trunk route, 3,700 miles (6,000 km) involves
a choice between two routes, 700 miles (1,100 km) a choice of
three, and over a further 700 miles (1,100 km) a choice of
Scotland only the
Central Belt routes and the lines via
Fife and Perth to Aberdeen were selected for development, and none
were selected in Wales, apart from the
Great Western Main Line
Great Western Main Line as far
Beeching's secondment from ICI ended early in June 1965 after Harold
Wilson's attempt to get him to produce a transport plan failed. It is
a matter of debate whether Beeching left by mutual arrangement with
the government or if he was sacked. Frank Cousins, the Labour Minister
of Technology, told the House of Commons in November 1965 that
Beeching had been dismissed by Tom Fraser. Beeching denied this,
pointing out that he had returned early to ICI as he would not have
had enough time to undertake an in-depth transport study before the
formal end of his secondment.
Prospect Tunnel lay on the Harrogate to Church Fenton Line, one of the
very first lines to be closed
The first report was accepted by the Government, but many of the
closures it recommended sparked protests from communities that would
lose their trains, many of which (especially rural communities) had no
other public transport. The government argued that many services
could be provided more cheaply by buses.
Line closures, which had been running at about 150–300 miles per
year between 1950 and 1961, peaked at 1,000 miles (1,600 km) in
1964 and had come to a virtual halt by the early 1970s. One of the
last major closures was the 98-mile long (158 km) Waverley Route
between Carlisle, Hawick and Edinburgh in 1969; the reopening of a
35-mile section of this line was approved in 2006 and passenger
services resumed in September 2015.
Not all the recommended closures were implemented. Reprieved lines
Lines through the Scottish Highlands, such as the Far North Line, were
kept open, in part because of pressure from the powerful Highland
Wales Line was said to have been kept open because it
passed through so many marginal constituencies that no one dared to
Tamar Valley Line
Tamar Valley Line in
Cornwall was kept open because the
local roads were poor.
Marshlink line between Ashford and
Hastings remained open because
of problems retaining replacement bus services.
Other routes (or parts of routes) planned for closure that survived
include the Settle-Carlisle Line, Ipswich–Lowestoft,
Manchester–Sheffield via Edale (but the
Woodhead Line and Bakewell
route closed), Buxton Line, Ayr–Stranraer, Glasgow–Kilmarnock,
Glasgow–Edinburgh via Shotts, Barrow–Whitehaven,
Middlesbrough–Whitby, York–Harrogate, Leeds/Bradford–Ilkley,
Nottingham–Lincoln, Boston–Skegness, Birkenhead–Wrexham,
Liverpool–Southport (and other Merseyside commuter routes),
Bury-Manchester, Leicester–Peterborough and Ryde–Shanklin.
The Beeching Report was intended to be the first stage in the rail
network's contraction. As a result, some lines it had not
recommended for closure were subsequently shut down, such as the
Woodhead Line between
Manchester and Sheffield in 1981, after the
freight traffic (mostly coal) on which it had relied declined. Most of
the Oxford–Cambridge "Varsity Line" closed despite its strategic
location serving Milton Keynes, Britain's largest "new town".
Kinross-shire and Fife especially suffered closures not included in
the Report, including the main line from Edinburgh to Perth. King's
Lynn was to have remained at the centre of routes towards Norwich,
Hunstanton and Wisbech, all of which closed.
With a few exceptions, after the early 1970s proposals to close other
lines were met with vociferous public opposition and were quietly
shelved. This opposition likely stemmed from the public experience of
the many line closures during the cuts in the mid and late 1960s.
This article's Criticism or Controversy section may compromise the
article's neutral point of view of the subject. Please integrate the
section's contents into the article as a whole, or rewrite the
material. (July 2012)
Disposals of land and structures
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A demolition train during the dismantling of the Salisbury and Dorset
Line in 1965
Wednesbury Town railway station
Wednesbury Town railway station and the South Staffordshire
Railway were closed, and were still in ruins in 2003.
Beeching's reports made no recommendations about the handling of land
British Rail operated a policy of disposing of land
that was surplus to requirements. Many bridges, cuttings and
embankments have been removed and the land sold for development.
Closed station buildings on remaining lines have often been demolished
or sold for housing or other purposes. Increasing pressure on land use
meant that protection of closed trackbeds, as in other countries (such
as the US
Rail Bank scheme, which holds former railway land for
possible future use) was not seen to be practical. Many redundant
structures from closed lines remain, such as bridges over other lines
and drainage culverts. They often require maintenance as part of the
rail infrastructure while providing no benefit. Critics of Beeching
argue that the lack of recommendations on the handling of closed
railway property demonstrates that the report was short-sighted. On
the other hand, retaining a railway on these routes, which would
obviously have increased maintenance costs, might not have earned
enough to justify that greater cost. As demand for rail has grown
since the 1990s, the failure to preserve the routes of closed lines
(such as the one between Bedford and Cambridge, which was closed
despite Beeching recommending its retention) has been criticised.
Acceptance of rail subsidies
By 1968 the railways had not been restored to profitability and
Beeching's approach appeared to many to have failed. It has been
suggested that by closing almost a third of the network Beeching
achieved a saving of just £30 million, whilst overall losses were
running in excess of £100 million per year. However, the precise
savings from closures are impossible to calculate. The Ministry of
Transport subsequently estimated that rail operating costs had been
cut by over £100 million in the wake of the Beeching Report but that
much of this had been swallowed up by increased wages. Some of the
branches closed acted as feeders to the main lines, and that feeder
traffic was lost when the branches closed; the financial significance
of this is debatable as over 90% of the railways' 1960 traffic was
carried on lines which remained open ten years later.
Whatever the figures, towards the end of the 1960s it became
increasingly clear that rail closures were not bringing the rail
system out of deficit and were unlikely ever to do so. Transport
Barbara Castle decided that some rail services, which could
not pay their way but had a valuable social role, should be
subsidised. Legislation allowing this was introduced in the 1968
Transport Act (Section 39 made provision for a subsidy to be paid by
the Treasury for a three-year period) but this was later repealed in
the Railways Act 1974. Whether these subsidies affected the size of
the network is questionable: the criteria for reprieving loss-making
lines had not altered, merely the way their costs appeared in the
railways accounts—previously their contribution to the railways'
overall loss was hidden in the total deficit.
Replacement buses and proposed alternatives
The "bustitution" policy that replaced rail services with buses also
failed. In many cases the replacement bus services were slower and
less convenient than the trains they were meant to replace, and so
were unpopular. Replacement bus services were often run between the
(now disused) station sites (some of which were some distance from the
population centres they served), thus losing any potential advantage
over the closed rail service. Most replacement bus services lasted
less than two years before they were removed due to a lack of
patronage, leaving large parts of the country with no public
The assumption at the time was that car owners would
drive to the nearest railhead (which was usually the junction where
the closed branch line would otherwise have taken them) and continue
their journey onwards by train. In practice, having left home in their
cars, people used them for the whole journey. Similarly for freight:
without branch lines, the railways' ability to transport goods "door
to door" was dramatically reduced. As in the passenger model, it was
assumed that lorries would pick up goods and transport them to the
nearest railhead, where they would be taken across the country by
train, unloaded onto another lorry and taken to their destination. The
development of the motorway network, the advent of containerisation,
improvements in lorries and the economic costs of having two
break-bulk points combined to make long-distance road transport a more
Many of the closed lines had run at only a small deficit. Some lines
such as the Sunderland to West Hartlepool line cost only £291 per
mile to operate. Closures of such small-scale loss-making lines
made little difference to the overall deficit.
Possible changes to light railway type operations were attacked by
Beeching, who wrote: "The third suggestion, that rail buses should be
substituted for trains, ignores the high cost of providing the route
itself, and also ignores the fact that rail buses are more expensive
vehicles than road buses." There is little in the Beeching report
recommending general economies (in administration costs, working
practices and so on). For example, a number of the stations that were
closed were fully staffed 18 hours a day, on lines controlled by
Victorian era signalboxes (again fully staffed, often
throughout the day). Operating costs could have been reduced by
reducing staff and removing redundant services on these lines while
keeping the stations open. This has since been successfully achieved
British Rail and its successors on lesser-used lines that survived
the cuts, such as the
East Suffolk Line
East Suffolk Line from Ipswich to Lowestoft,
which survives as a "basic railway".
Marshlink Line between Ashford and Hastings, threatened with
closure in the Beeching Report, is now seen as important due to the
opening of the Channel Tunnel and High Speed 1. Traffic on the
Golden Valley Line between Kemble and Swindon and the
Cotswold Line between Oxford and Worcester has increased
significantly, and double track has now been reinstated on the Golden
The people and the politics
The Conservatives increased their Commons majority in the general
election of 8 October 1959, their first with
Harold Macmillan as prime
minister, who famously said that most people "had never had it so
good". Ernest Marples, previously the Postmaster General, was made
Transport Minister two weeks later in a cabinet reshuffle; Marples was
described by some as "cocky", "flash", "slick" and as a "construction
tycoon", and Macmillan noted that the Northern working-class boy who
had won a scholarship to a grammar school was one of only two
"self-made men" in his cabinet.
Marples had a background with a successful road construction company.
When opening the
M1 motorway he said: "This motorway starts a new era
in road travel. It is in keeping with the bold scientific age in which
we live. It is a powerful weapon to add to our transport system." His
association with the high-profile construction company Marples Ridgway
became a matter of concern to both the public and politicians. As is
customary, he resigned as a director of the company in 1951 on
becoming a junior minister, but he only sold his shares in the company
in 1960 after the company won a contract to build the Hammersmith
Flyover, when questions were asked both in the media and also in the
Commons on 28 January 1960; he made a statement to the House later
that day confirming that the sale of shares was in hand and would be
completed "very soon", noting that as part of the agreement he could
be required to buy the shares from the purchaser at the original price
after he ceased to hold office, if so desired by the purchaser. In
Marples Ridgway and partners[clarification needed][not a
partnership] were awarded a £4.1 million contract for the "Hendon
Urban Motorway" extension of the M1, in the same year that the
company was taken over by the Bath and Portland Group. There was
no evidence of any wrongdoing on anyone's part in this or any of the
other contracts awarded to the company during his term of office,
it did however lead to a sense of unease, not least within the railway
In April 1960, Sir
Ivan Stedeford established an advisory group known
as the Stedeford Committee at the request of
Harold Macmillan to
report on the state of the
British Transport Commission and to make
recommendations. Sir Frank Smith, a retired former Chief Engineer
at Imperial Chemical Industries, was asked by the Conservative
Minister of Transport, Ernest Marples, to become a member of an
advisory group; Smith declined but recommended Beeching in his place,
a suggestion which Marples accepted. Dr Beeching, with a
Physics, had been appointed to the main board of ICI at the age of 43.
The board consisted of senior figures in British businesses, and none
of the board had previous knowledge or experience of the railway
industry. Stedeford and Beeching clashed on a number of
issues, but the future size of the railway system was not one of
them. For all the suspicion it aroused, the committee had little to
say on this and the government was already convinced of the need to
reduce the size of the rail network. In spite of questions being
asked in Parliament, Sir Ivan's report was not published at the
time. In December 1960 questions were asked in the Lords about
this "secret" and "under-the-counter" study group. It was later
suggested that Stedeford had recommended that the government should
set up another body "to consider the size and pattern of the railway
system required to meet current and foreseeable needs, in the light of
developments and trends in other forms of transport ... and other
relevant considerations".[note 14]
Marples then appointed Beeching as Chairman of the British Transport
Commission in March 1961. He would receive the same yearly salary
that he was earning at ICI, the controversial sum of £24,000
(£490,000 in 2016 terms), £10,000 more than Sir Brian Robertson, the
previous chairman of the BTC, £14,000 more than
Prime Minister Harold
Macmillan and two-and-a-half times higher than the salary of any head
of a nationalised industry at the time. At that time the Government
was seeking outside talent and fresh blood to sort out the huge
problems of the railway network, and he was confident that he could
make the railways pay for themselves, but his salary, at 35 times that
of many railway workers, has been described as a "political
Transport Act 1962
Transport Act 1962 dissolved the British Transport Commission
(BTC), which had overseen the railways, canals and road freight
transport and established the British Railways Board, which took over
on 1 January 1963, with Dr Beeching as its first chairman. The Act put
in place measures that simplified the process of closing railways by
removing the need for the pros and cons of each case to be heard in
detail. It was described as the "most momentous piece of legislation
in the field of railway law to have been enacted since the Railway and
Canal Traffic Act 1854".
The Beeching report was published in March 1963 and was adopted by the
Government; it resulted in the closure of a third of the rail network
and the scrapping of a third of a million freight wagons.
The General election in October 1964 returned the Labour Government
Harold Wilson after 13 years of
Conservative government. During the election campaign Labour had
promised to halt rail closures if elected, but they quickly
backtracked, and later oversaw some of the most controversial
Tom Fraser was appointed Transport Minister, but was
Barbara Castle in December 1965. Castle published a
map, Network for Development, in 1967 showing the railway system
"stabilised" at around 11,000 route miles (17,700 km).
Section 39 of the
1968 Transport Act
1968 Transport Act made provision for grants to be
paid in relation to loss-making lines and services, but many of
the services and railway lines that would have qualified had already
been closed. A number of branch lines and local services were saved by
After 1970, when the Conservatives were returned to power, serious
thought was given to a further programme of closures, but this proved
politically impossible. In 1983, under the government of Margaret
Thatcher, Sir David Serpell, a civil servant who had worked with
Beeching, compiled the Serpell Report which said that a profitable
railway could be achieved only by closing much of what remained. The
infamous "Option A" in this report was illustrated by a map of a
vestigial system with, for example, no railways west of Bristol or
Cardiff and none in
Scotland apart from the central belt. Serpell was
shown to have some serious weaknesses, such as the closure of the
Midland Main Line
Midland Main Line (a busy route for coal to power stations), and the
East Coast Main Line
East Coast Main Line between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Edinburgh, part of
the key London/Edinburgh link. The report met fierce resistance from
many quarters and was quickly abandoned.
Ian Hislop comments that history has been somewhat unkind to
"Britain's most hated civil servant", by forgetting that he proposed a
much better bus service that ministers never delivered, and that in
some ways he was used to do their "dirty work for them". Hislop
describes Beeching as "a technocrat [who] wasn't open to argument to
romantic notions of rural England or the warp and weft of the train in
our national identity. He didn't buy any of that. He went for a
straightforward profit and loss approach and some claim we are still
reeling from that today". Beeching was unrepentant about his role
in the closures: "I suppose I'll always be looked upon as the axe man,
but it was surgery, not mad chopping".
History of rail transport in Great Britain
History of rail transport in Great Britain 1995 to date
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Rail modal share 1952-2015
Rail Passengers in Great Britain from 1829-2016
Since the Beeching cuts, road traffic levels have grown significantly
and since privatisation in the mid-1990s there have been record levels
of passengers on the railways (although the impact of this is
disputed). A few of the railway closures have been reversed. However,
despite the considerable increase in railway journeys since the
mid-1990s, rail transport's share of the total transport market
remains below that of the early 1960s, with road overwhelmingly the
dominant mode: rail's market share was 13% in 1961, 6% in 1991 and
2001 and 10% in 2014.
A few closed stations have reopened, and passenger services been
restored on a few lines where they had been removed.
Some lines have been brought back into use for passenger rail, such as
Borders Railway in Scotland
Some closed lines have been converted to light rail operation, such as
Other former lines have been converted into guided busways, such as
the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway
Several former lines have been turned into heritage railways, such as
Great Central Railway
Great Central Railway (Nottingham)
Snow Hill tunnel, south of Farringdon station, was reopened for
passengers in 1988 as part of Thameslink, providing a link between the
Midland Main Line
Midland Main Line and the former Southern Railway via London
Varsity Line closed in 1967, despite not being recommended for
closure by Beeching. The
Oxford-Bicester line section reopened in
1987, while works to extend passenger services to Bedford as part of
East West Rail
East West Rail are due to be completed by 2025. As of March
2018[update], plans to restore fully the direct service between Oxford
and Cambridge remain unfunded. Sections of the
Varsity Line have been
built over or converted into the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway.
Chiltern Main Line was redoubled in two stages between 1998 and 2002
between Princes Risborough and Aynho Junction
Chandler's Ford in
Hampshire opened its new railway station in 2003,
on the Romsey to Eastleigh link that had closed to passengers in 1969.
Part of the
London to Aylesbury Line
London to Aylesbury Line was extended north along the
Great Central Main Line
Great Central Main Line to a new station called Aylesbury Vale
Parkway, which opened in December 2008. As part of the East West Rail
project, passenger services are to be restored to the section of line
from Aylesbury Vale Parkway to as far Claydon LNE Junction, providing
direct services from Aylesbury to
Milton Keynes and Bedford.
A section of the
Dunstable Branch Lines
Dunstable Branch Lines in Bedfordshire, closed in
1967, was converted into a guided busway and re-opened as the Luton to
Dunstable Busway in 2013.
The passenger service on the
Portishead Railway stopped in 1964; plans
are to reopen as far as Portishead, possibly by 2019. Freight services
ceased in 1981 and partly reopened in 2002 so was unrelated to
Stations reopened include Yate, Cam and Dursley, Ashchurch, Pinhoe,
Feniton and Templecombe
The service between Swindon and Trowbridge stopped in 1966 but two
passenger trains each way were reinstated in 1985 with the reopening
of Melksham station. The train service has increased with passenger
numbers rising rapidly.
Robin Hood Line
Robin Hood Line in Nottinghamshire, between Nottingham and Worksop
via Mansfield, reopened in the early 1990s. Previously Mansfield had
been the largest town in Britain without a rail link.
Lincoln to Peterborough line. The section between Peterborough and
Spalding closed to passengers on 5 October 1970 and reopened on 7 June
North of Sleaford, Ruskington station reopened on 5 May 1975 and
Metheringham Station reopened on 6 October 1975.
The Kettering to Melton Mowbray Line via Corby and Oakham closed to
passengers on 18 April 1966. A line was reopened in 1987 with a
shuttle service between Kettering and Corby, but the service was
unreliable and lost funding support from the local council, leading to
its closure in 1990. The line was then reopened on 23 February 2009,
with a direct train to London that terminates at Corby, with a limited
number of trains continuing on towards Oakham and Melton Mowbray.
Birmingham Snow Hill station, after closing in 1972, was rebuilt and
reopened in 1987 along with Snow Hill tunnel underneath Birmingham
city centre to
Birmingham Moor Street. The line towards Kidderminster
and Worcester was reopened to Snow Hill in 1995.
The line from Snow Hill to Wolverhampton reopened as the Midland Metro
tram system. Despite the successful and potential reopening of many
rail routes as light-rail and metro lines, the concept is still under
threat due to the varying popularity of these schemes with successive
The line from
Coventry to Nuneaton reopened to passengers in 1988.
The Walsall–Hednesford line reopened to passengers in 1989, and was
extended to Rugeley in 1997. Passenger services were terminated
between Walsall and Wolverhampton in 2008 on cost and efficiency
grounds. Some commentators believe an intermediate station at
Willenhall should have been included with the original reopening.
South Staffordshire Line
South Staffordshire Line between Stourbridge and Walsall is set to
reopen as a part of the
Midland Metro expansion scheme. The line will
be shared between trams and freight trains.
Cotswold Line has been redoubled in places and Honeybourne station
Kenilworth railway station
Kenilworth railway station is due to reopen in March 2018.
The route out of
Manchester Central over the Cheshire Lines
Manchester South District Line has been reopened by
Metrolink. The line opened to St Werburgh's Road (via Chorlton) in
July 2011 and was extended as far as East Didsbury in May 2013.
32 new stations, such as Llanharan, and four lines reopened within 20
miles (32 km) of each other: Abercynon–Aberdare,
Barry–Bridgend via Llantwit Major, Bridgend–Maesteg and the Ebbw
Valley Railway via Newbridge.
Glasgow Central Railway between Rutherglen and Stobcross was reopened
in November 1979, establishing the
Argyle Line connecting the Hamilton
Circle to the North Clyde Line.
Intermediate stations at Dalmarnock, Bridgeton,
Glasgow Central Low
Level and Anderston were reopened. A new station opened at Argyle
Argyle Line was extended in December 2005 when a four-mile
(6.4 km) section of the Mid Lanark Lines of the Caledonian
Railway reopened, serving Chatelherault, Merryton and Larkhall.
Glasgow and South Western Railway's
Paisley Canal line
Paisley Canal line was closed
to passengers in 1983. The majority of the route reopened in 1990.
The Caledonian Railway's
Rutherglen and Coatbridge Railway
Rutherglen and Coatbridge Railway closed to
passengers in 1966. The majority of the route was reopened (with a
revised terminus station at Whifflet) in 1993.
Stirling to Alloa reopened on 19 May 2008, providing a passenger
service to Alloa on the route of the former Stirling-Dunfermline main
line after a 40-year gap. This line had not been marked for closure by
Beeching. The restored line also provides for freight onwards to
Kincardine, and ultimately to Dunfermline by the slower, single track
coastal route. Coal traffic has subsequently ceased with the closure
of Longannet Power station.
Laurencekirk on the mainline between Arbroath and Aberdeen was shut in
1967 but 42 years later in May 2009 it was reopened. This was the 77th
new or reopened station in
Scotland since 1970. Others include Gretna
Green, Dyce and New Cumnock all of which had been closed in the
The Edinburgh to Bathgate route opened in 1985, as single track. The
line was doubled, electrified and extended beyond Bathgate to Airdrie
in 2010, creating a fourth route between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
A 35-mile (56 km) stretch of the former
Waverley Route between
Edinburgh and Tweedbank via Galashiels reopened on 6 September 2015.
The closure of the line in 1969 had left the
Scottish Borders without
any rail links.
Beauly (2006) and Conon Bridge (2015) were reopened on the Far North
Line between Inverness and Dingwall.
Other lines were reopened as heritage railways. See List of British
heritage and private railways.
In June 2009, the
Association of Train Operating Companies
Association of Train Operating Companies called for
14 lines with about 40 stations to be reopened.
The lines include, either wholly or in part:
Bordon Light Railway
Torbay and Brixham Railway
Sutton Park Line
Walsall – Brownhills Line
Aldridge – Brownhills West Line
Wisbech – March Line
Fleetwood Branch Line
East Lancashire Railway
Blyth and Newbiggin Branch Line,
Durham – Washington – Pelaw line.
Leicester to Burton upon Trent Line
In popular culture
BBC TV comedy series Oh, Doctor Beeching!, which ran in
1995–1997, was set in a small fictional branch line railway station
threatened with closure under the Beeching cuts.
Flanders and Swann, writers and performers of satirical songs, wrote a
lament for lines closed by the
Beeching cuts entitled "Slow Train".
Michael Williams' book On the slow train takes its name from the
Flanders and Swann
Flanders and Swann song. It celebrates 12 of the most beautiful and
historic journeys in Britain, some of which were saved from the
Beeching cuts. It perpetuated the myth that the
Beeching cuts were
concerned solely with sleepy rural branch lines, but they concerned
well-used "industrial" and commuter lines.
In the satirical magazine Private Eye, the "Signal Failures" column on
railway issues is written under the pseudonym "Dr. B. Ching".
The lyrics of the
I Like Trains song "The Beeching Report" are a
criticism of Dr Beeching and the Beeching cuts.
Closures by year
The remains of Rugby Central Station on the former Great Central
An abandoned stone bridge spans the route of the
Otley and Ilkley
Joint Railway through Otley, which was closed in 1965.
The list below shows 7000 miles of closures:
Total length closed
150 miles (240 km)
275 miles (443 km)
300 miles (480 km)
275 miles (443 km)
1954 to 1957
500 miles (800 km)
150 miles (240 km)
350 miles (560 km)
175 miles (282 km)
150 miles (240 km)
780 miles (1,260 km)
Beeching report published
324 miles (521 km)
1,058 miles (1,703 km)
600 miles (970 km)
750 miles (1,210 km)
300 miles (480 km)
400 miles (640 km)
250 miles (400 km)
275 miles (443 km)
23 miles (37 km)
50 miles (80 km)
35 miles (56 km)
After this period "residual" Beeching closures did occur: Bridport to
Maiden Newton[note 15] (in 1975), Alston to Haltwhistle[note 16] (in
1976), Woodside to Selsdon[note 17] (in 1983).
List of closed railway stations in Britain
List of heritage railway stations in the United Kingdom
General Motors streetcar conspiracy
^ RB(1963a), page 50
^ RB(1963a), page 46
^ RB(1963a), page 1.
^ RB(1963a), page 2. "It is, of course the responsibility of the
British Railways Board so to shape and operate the railways as to make
^ RB(1963a), page 3. "Ever since major amalgamations started, the
business of railways has been, from a financial point of view, a
mixture of good, bad, and indifferent."
^ RB(1963a), page 65.
^ RB(1963a), page 66.
^ RB(1963a), page 64.
^ RB(1963a), page 96-99 Appendix 2.
^ RB(1963a), page 97.
^ RB(1963a), page 141-148. "Appendix 4 The Liner Train"
^ RB(1965), page 45.
^ Ecologics(2010) "A more critical interpretation is that after
Macmillan named Marples as Minister of Transport, Britain’s
transport policy swerved to the right, and became motivated by the
kind of conflict of interest that Thompson notes can be loosely
regarded as a form of corruption (9). Actually, in this case it may
well have been a rather tight form of corruption. At the time that he
was named minister, Marples owned 64,000 of the 80,000 shares of
Marples Ridgeway, a civil engineering firm that specialised in
^ Ecologics(2010) "First, Marples decided to 'disappear' the Stedeford
report—or at any rate, any recommendations he put forward (there
appears to be some debate as to whether an actual report was
produced). As noted by Henshaw, 'The findings of the Stedeford
Committee remained such a well kept secret that even Barbara Castle
was unable to see them on becoming Minister of Transport in 1966'
(22). In fact, we now know that Stedeford actually proposed that the
government should set up another body whose task it would be '... to
consider the size and pattern of the railway system required to meet
current and foreseeable needs, in the light of developments and trends
in other forms of transport ... and other relevant considerations'"
^ RB(1963a), page 107
^ RB(1963a), page 129 (in Section 6 "Passenger Services under
Consideration for Withdrawal before the Formulation of the Report")
^ RB(1963a), page 130
RB(1963a): Beeching, Richard (1963a). "The Reshaping of British
Railways" (PDF). HMSO.
RB(1963b): Beeching, Richard. "The Reshaping of British Railways
(maps)" (PDF). HMSO.
Beeching, Richard (1965). "The Development Of The Major Railway Trunk
Routes" (PDF). HMSO.
Ecologics (2010) "Financial Scandal, Corruption and Censorship: Part
3". Archived from the original on 16 September 2013.
Richard Faulkner and Chris Austin, Holding the line: How Britain's
Railways were saved (2012). Oxford Publishing Co
Allen, G. Freeman (1966). British Railways after Beeching. Shepperton:
Gourvish, T. R. (1986).
British Rail 1948 – 1973: A Business
Henshaw, David (1994). The Great Railway Conspiracy.
Joy, Stewart (1973). The Train That Ran Away: A Business History of
British Railways 1948–1968. Shepperton: Ian Allan.
Loft, Charles (2013). Last Trains: Dr Beeching and the Death of Rural
England. ISBN 9781849545006
White, H. P. (1986). Forgotten Railways. ISBN 0-946537-13-5.
^ a b c d e f g White, H.P. (1986) ''Forgotten Railways,
^ a b c d e f g Henshaw, David (1994). The Great Railway Conspiracy.
^ "TRA0101 (also TSGB0701) Road traffic (vehicle miles) by vehicle
type in Great Britain, annual from 1949". Department for
^ a b "The Great Vanishing Railway". timmonet.co.uk.
^ Wolmar, Christian (2005) On the wrong Line, ISBN 1-85410-998-7
British Railways Board history". The National Archives. Archived
from the original on 14 October 2006. Retrieved 25 November
^ a b UK
Retail Price Index
Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from
Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for
Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 6
^ a b c "BRITISH TRANSPORT COMMISSION (CHAIRMAN)". Hansard.
^ Daniels, G. & Dench, L.A. (1975). Passengers No More.
Shepperton: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-0438-2. CS1 maint: Uses
authors parameter (link) [not in citation given]
^ Garry Keenor. "The Reshaping of British Railways – Part 1:
Report". The Railways Archive. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
^ The Times, "The Second Stage of Dr. Beeching's Reorganisation
Proposals", 17 February 1965, p. 8.
^ The Times, "Mr. Cousins says 'We Sacked Beeching'", 17 November
1965, p. 12.
^ The Times, "Lord Beeching: 'I Was Not Sacked'", 18 November 1965, p.
^ "All stations on the Stour Line are Doomed – Councils to lead
^ a b Gourvish, T. R. (1974),
British Rail 1948 – 1973: A Business
^ "Borders to Edinburgh railway: Track laying gets under way". BBC
News. BBC. 9 October 2014. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
^ "Rye-Ashford Area (Public Transport)". Hansard. 26 November 1970.
Retrieved 25 August 2016.
^ Rail Engineer article - Derailed: The complicity dividend
^ a b c d e f Loft, Charles (2013) Last Trains – Dr Beeching and the
Death of Rural England ISBN 9781849545006
^ Route Selection - East West Rail
^ a b Garry Keenor. "Railway Finances – Report of a Committee
chaired by Sir
David Serpell KCB CMG OBE". The Railways Archive.
Retrieved 25 July 2010.
^ "High speed service to run between Ashford and
Hastings from London
after Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin attends rail summit".
Kent Business. 2 April 2014. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
^ Driving Spaces: A Cultural-Historical Geography of England's M1
Motorway. 2011. p. 153. ISBN 9781444355475.
^ "MINISTERS OF THE CROWN (PRIVATE INTERESTS)". Hansard. 28 January
1960. Is he aware that there has been a Press report, which I am
unable to confirm or deny, that the Minister of Transport was in fact
the senior partner of a firm of contractors which has obtained a
contract worth £250,000 and that we understand, according to this
Press report, that the right hon. Gentleman is now trying to dispose
of the shares he has. In a case of this kind, does not the right hon.
Gentleman think it most improper, at any rate, that any Minister of
the Crown should be associated with any company with which such a
contract is placed?
^ "PERSONAL STATEMENT". Hansard. 28 January 1960. When I became
Minister of Transport, last October, I realised that there was a risk
of a conflict of interest appearing 381 to arise in consequence of my
holding a controlling interest in the company. I immediately took
steps to effect a sale of my shares. It has taken some time to arrange
this as the company is a private one engaged in long-term contracts in
civil engineering, but I hope that it will be completed very soon.
Then I shall have no financial interest in the company. But I think
that I should tell the House that the prospective purchasers have
required me to undertake to buy the shares back from them at the price
they are to pay if they ask me to do so after I have ceased to hold
office. I myself have no option to buy the shares back. I have not, of
course, had anything whatsoever to do with any tenders put in by the
company while I have been a member of the Government.
^ "M1". Hansard. 21 April 1967.
^ "Reginald Ridgway". The Telegraph. 29 March 2002.
^ "Marples, Ridgway & Partners Limited". 11 November 1964. Mr. A.
Lewis asked the Minister of Transport whether he will publish in
HANSARD a table of figures giving the contracts obtained by Marples,
Ridgway & Partners Limited during the past 13 years, and the
amounts of such contracts in each case.
^ a b "BRITISH TRANSPORT COMMISSION (ADVISORY GROUP)". Hansard. 6
April 1960. In accordance with the statement which my right hon.
Prime Minister made on 10th March, I have now appointed the
body which will advise me and the British Transport Commission. It
will be composed as follows: Chairman: Sir Ivan Stedeford, K.B.E.,
Chairman and Managing Director, Tube Investments Ltd. Members: Mr. C.
F. Kearton, O.B.E., Joint Managing Director, Courtaulds, Dr. R.
Beeching, A.R.C.S., B.Sc, Ph.D., Technical Director of I.C.I., Mr. H.
A. Benson, C.B.E., F.C.A., partner in Cooper Bros., chartered
accountants. The Treasury and the Ministry of Transport will also be
represented. The task of the advisory body will be to examine the
structure, finance and working of the organisations at present
controlled by the Commission and to advise the Minister of Transport
and the British Transport Commission, as a matter of urgency, how
effect can best be given to the Government's intentions as indicated
in the Prime Minister's statement.
^ Hardy, R.H.N. (1989). Beeching: Champion of the Railway?. London:
Ian Allan Ltd. pp. 44–48. ISBN 978-0-7110-1855-6.
^ Dudley, Geoff (2000). Why Does Policy Change: Lessons from British
Transport Policy 1945–95. London: Routledge. pp. 48–9.
^ "Railways". Hansard. 29 April 1963.
^ "PROBLEMS OF TRANSPORTATION". There has been appointed a highly
secret, "under-the-counter" study group of the railways, the Stedeford
Advisory Group. Now do not let it be thought that I have any prejudice
against Sir Ivan Stedeford. I have a great respect for him: I think he
is a very able business man. Indeed, I exercised some influence in
getting him appointed as a Governor of the British Broadcasting
Corporation, where he did good work. I have no prejudice; but I do not
like the way the Government have handled it. They have never published
the terms of reference, and I cannot believe that there are not any.
They are refusing to publish the Report. In fact, they do not wholly
admit that there is a Report; but there are recommendations, and they
have not been published...
^ Celmins, Martin (30 July 1995). "REAR WINDOW: FAT CATS The man who
was paid pounds 24,000 a year". The Independent. IS THIS man—or any
man—worth pounds 450 a week?" the Daily Sketch demanded to know. The
Daily Express asked: "Is THIS the way to run a country?". The Daily
Mail reassuringly observed "Dr Beeching rides the storm", while the
Mirror calmly stuck to the facts. These were that Dr Richard Beeching,
technical director of ICI, had been appointed head of the British
Railways Board at a salary of £24,000 per annum ... Whatever the
logic, politically it was a disaster.
^ Kahn-Freund, Otto (March 1963). "Transport Act, 1962". Modern Law
Review. 26 (2): 174. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2230.1963.tb00706.x.
^ 1967 Network for Development report and map
^ "Transport Act 1968 – 39 Grants for unremunerative passenger
services". legislation.gov.uk. If, in the case of any place or places
to and from which railway passenger services are for the time being
provided by the Railways Board, the Minister is satisfied (a) that
those services are unremunerative ; and (b) that it is desirable
for social or economic reasons that railway passenger services to and
from the place or places in question should for the time being
continue to be provided either in the same or in some different form
or manner ; and (c) that because of the unremunerative nature of
the services which the Minister is satisfied are desirable for those
reasons (hereafter in this section referred to as "the required
services") the Board cannot reasonably be expected to provide them
without assistance under this section, then, subject to the provisions
of this section, the Minister may from time to time with the consent
of the Treasury undertake to make grants to the Board in respect of
the provision of the required services for such period not exceeding
three years at a time as the Minister may think fit
^ See list of initial grants awarded and applications rejected in The
Railway Magazine for January 1969
^ "Britain's most hated civil servant".
BBC news. 1 October
^ Davies, Hunter (1982). A walk along the tracks. Weidenfeld and
Nicolson. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-297-78042-7.
^ "Department for Transport Statistics: Passenger transport: by mode,
annual from 1952".
^ Modal comparisons (TSGB01) - Statistical data sets - GOV.UK
^ SPT News Archived September 22, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
^ a b "Operators call for new rail lines".
BBC News Online. 15 June
2009. Retrieved 15 June 2009.
^ "Michael Williams: So much pain in our love of the train". The
Independent. 3 April 2010. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Beeching rail closures.
Commons debate on the Beeching Report 29 April 1963, discussing the
problematic financial implications of Beeching to councils on the
provision of more roads and to industry.
A further Commons debate on Beeching Report 2 May 1963
Colour film of one of the closed "branch" lines in operation
Beeching cuts in more detail
Extensive before and after photo collection of closed stations, with
Closed railway stations in Britain by first letter
A, B, C, D–F, G, H–J, K–L, M–O, P–R, S, T–V, W–Z
1955 Modernisation Plan
Privatisation of British Rail
Transport Act 1947
Transport Act 1962
Railways Act 1993
Transport Act 2000
British Transport Commission
British Railways Board
BRB (Residuary) Limited
Rail Express Systems
Red Star Parcels
British Rail Engineering
British Rail Research Division
British Rail Telecommunications
British Transport Hotels
Media and Publicity
Age of the Train
The wrong type of snow
See also Cat